I am writing this having just completed my longest open water swim – 2km from Bracklesham Bay down towards Medmerry and back again. Whilst that might not sound very far for any seasoned open water swimmer, for me it was a big milestone.
I had previously struggled with open water swimming, despite a huge desire to regularly swim in the sea. On numerous occasions I had been with other more competent swimmers and ended up feeling dizzy – almost sea sick, with breast stroke induced back ache and generally feeling disappointed that I wasn’t loving the experience I so craved.
Quite by accident the change came a few months after I started to frequently practice yoga.
I believe there are many reasons why yoga helped with my swimming and it wasn’t just due to one element of the practice but the main benefit came from my breathing.
In yoga we use Ujayi breath – victorious breath, the breath which sounds like the ocean, so it is very fitting that this contributed so much to my love of swimming in the ocean.
Being able to control my breathing and regulate my inhales and exhales enabled me to feel more relaxed in the water, not gasping for breath or taking any unnecessary gulps of salty water.
Exhaling fully reduced any carbon dioxide build up in my body and instead of feeling out of breath after only a short distance I was able to enjoy swimming longer distances.
Emptying my lungs of air also helped my posture in the water and reduce any drag of my legs.
I am bilateral breather (I breath on each side, normally after 3 strokes) and this, just like working both sides of my body in my yoga practice helps me feel more balanced.
I now enjoy both open water swimming in a wetsuit covering distances up to 3 km, generally during the summer months and also cold water swimming in a swimming costume during the winter. The ability to control my breathing and use it as the super-power it is, has helped with both.
It’s not all about the breath, I believe improving the flexibility in my hips and shoulders has contributed to an easier, more efficient freestyle technique and a strong upper body has helped my catch and pull.
Yoga practice has given me the gift of being more present. I am now fully tuned into my surroundings and enjoy looking through the water for fish and interesting sand patterns. Although I must admit I also spend a good deal of time sighting my swim buddy who is always out ahead!
Yoga has transformed my open & cold water swimming into a moving meditation which helps clear my mind and feed my soul.
Some of my favourite places to swim
Bude sea pool, Cornwall provides a consistent sea swim even when the ocean it is filled by is full of movement and often big waves
Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex, I love the longer swims from here in the summer and dipping with the Bracklesham Bay Bluetits in the winter. It is easy to hug the shoreline and never have to venture further than you are comfortable.
Bosham Quay, in the winter when I want to get dry and warm quickly this is one of my favourite spots. It is only possible to swim an hour each side of high tide, and going off the quay is a stunning spot.
If you are interested in Indoor and Outdoor Yoga classes in Chichester please get in touch